My neighborhood is waking up after the slumber of winter. The smell of pork steaks cooking over charcoal, heavy bass lines thumping from open cars windows, neighbor kids laughing during a game of tag. Peanut and Lucy are on their stoop, greeting passersby—and all before the tulips are in full bloom!
This waking up has me thinking about the culture and rhythms of Benton Park West. We are front porch people in my neighborhood. This was a welcome surprise, after decades of suburban life where privacy fences and backyard patios were the norm. It’s not uncommon for neighbors on my block to roll their grills out front and make an event of dinner with the family.
Miss Dolores stops to chat on my porch once or twice a week. She’s retired and doesn’t drive, and my house is enroute to the local Save A Lot. She’ll ask me about my front yard garden or fill me in on the “never-ending drama” from her end of the block. One time she taught me how to “Whip/Nae Nae.” Another time she told me about how hard it’s been adjusting to life as a widow. I told her how hard it’s been adjusting to life without my dad.
Lauren brings a cold bottle of Prosecco to my porch; we cheer her new job and all the possibilities it holds. We tell everyone who walks by what we are celebrating.
Sweet Kamiya, age 9, stops to say hello and giggles uncontrollably when my puppy attacks her with kisses. She tells me that her mom is having another baby and that it’s hard being the oldest sometimes. I tell her that I’m a big sister, too. I tell her that one day, “You might be best friends with your little sisters! It happened to me, and it can happen to you.” She’s not sold on the idea just yet.
Brandon, the youngest entrepreneur in the neighborhood, knocks on my door.
“Miss Sara, can I have a glass of water?” He just helped Miss Dolores with her trash and now he’s headed to load some boxes for another neighbor. I ask him to please explain Minecraft to me and he lights up. I still don’t understand it.
Cinco de Mayo brings droves of people to my neighborhood for a huge celebration. My porch serves as welcome shade and friendly conversation, a moment of reprieve from the intensity of the day. I clink a bottle of Topo Chico with my neighbor and we chuckle about the eccentricities of our little corner of the world.
My family comes from Michigan to visit. My dad is sick and we know the road ahead. We eat pizza on the porch together. A friend comes by to snap some photos. These would be the last photos I have with my dad. Me, on my front porch, with the most gregarious and neighborly person I’ve ever known. He’s the one who taught me in word and deed what it looks like to love your community. Even his last birthday party was a front porch event!
My neighborhood isn’t perfect. Like many city neighborhoods, cars are stolen and dumpsters sometimes overflow. But I love it here, and I love that we are front porch people. I think it lets everyone know that we are friendly and open and ready to connect with one another.